Hey Parents! So you’ve had a little break from packing your kids’ school lunches… but admit it, you’ve kind of missed it, right? Yes? Just a little? Well… I’ll confess that I’m actually quite excited about getting into the school lunch packing routine again even though I’ve packed 3,510 (no joke!) school lunches for my kids over the years… and one of my kids isn’t even in kindergarten yet! So much lunch-packing fun still ahead over here chez Reilly.
In Episode 9 of the Delish and Healthyish Podcast, Corinne and I give our tips for packing healthy school lunches for younger kids. You can listen here:
Next week in Episode 10, we’ll tackle lunches for big kids and grown-ups. But first! Here are our tips for younger kid lunches summarized:
1. Bake something with your kids that shows up in their lunch. They’re more likely to eat it, love it, and brag about it. Stay tuned for our 3-Step Weekend Prep E-Guide for a scrumptious apple muffin recipe which fits perfectly into a healthy kid lunch.
2. Build lunches from the 5 categories: fruit, veggie, protein, carby-snack-granola bar-type thing, and dessert. Make a list of which foods fit into each category, paste the list on your kitchen wall, and let your kids choose or even make their own lunches with the 5 magical components. Here are some examples:
* Unsweetened applesauce (pre-packaged) + cherry tomatoes + PB&J half sandwich + mini chocolate cupcake (don’t forget the applesauce spoon!)
* Blueberries + baby carrots + hummus + crackers + 2 brownie bites
* Grapes + fresh green beans + Larabar mini + edamame beans + apple muffin
* Watermelon chunks + bell pepper slices + Kite Hill Greek yogurt + individual bag of Skinny Pop + small handful chocolate chips
3. Use containers that have multiple compartments with 1 lid and use silicone muffin cups to further divide the big sections. Avoid lots of little Tupperware in various sizes — tops get lost, they don’t stack well, and who has time to wash all those little pieces every night?! Here are our favorite containers:
* Bento Lunch Box by Lucentee: 3 compartments; pack of 7 with different colored lids for $16; Beware that they are NOT leak proof, so only use packaged items or solid items in these. Medium-sized compartment fits an individual applesauce container. Size is 9” x 6” x 2” total.
* Easy Lunch Boxes 4-compartment snack box: Meant for snacks, but perfect for preschool lunches. Pack of 4 containers for $13. Size is 6” x 6” x 2” total. Again not leak-proof, so contain yogurt or applesauce within the compartments or toss those in separately.
* Hot lunch 10-ounce Thermos. Use this when it’s cold out and you want to send something warm like lentil soup, veggie chili, mac and cheese, pasta or smart dogs. Then, toss additional lunch items in ziplocks or a smaller container.
4. Mass produce as much as possible on the weekends or Monday night. You can pre-chop veggies, make mini muffins or little cookies, portion out hummus into condiment containers, or my favorite mass production activity which is a 4-loaf-of-bread sandwich making undertaking and freezing them in half-sandwich portions. Use snack-size ziplocks and make a zillion peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, Don’t Go Nuts chocolate soybean spread, and cream cheese half sandwiches to freeze. Pull them out the morning of or night before–they only take about an hour to thaw out.
5. Send a sweet note in their lunchbox. If you don’t have time to write something, check out these cute notes to keep on hand.
And our best tip yet… get those lunches packed at night! This will free you up in the morning for a walk, or even just save you from screaming “WAIT!! I haven’t packed your lunch yet!!” Tune in next week for more tips for middle school, high school, and adult lunches.
In colorful lunches and of course BPA-free plastic,
Jen & Corinne
6 thoughts on “Building and Packing a Healthy School Lunch (ages 3-10)”
Dear Jen, did you get my muffin recipe? And how can it be changed to vegan? I did send it.MANY XO’s Susan
Hi Jen, great tips! Thank you! Would you mind sharing the printable you posted in your kitchen. Having my kids fix their own lunches has been a nightmare. Maybe this would help us survive another school year.
You bet! This is the original handout which I’ve now revised into 5 categories for my kids. Hope it helps! xo – Jen
Awesome! Thank you! Just in time for the new school year.